‘Pimbecile’. The Daily Telegraph‘s headline calling Pim Verbeek an ‘erratic pimbecile’ over his team selection and tactics in the Socceroos’ 0-4 mauling by Germany was harsh but amusing. The Dutchman has, quite rightly, coped a fair whack over Australia’s defeat in its opening match of the World Cup but some of the criticism has been well over the top.
One of the chief critics has been ex-Socceroo Craig Foster. Fozzie’s passion for Australian football is laudable but when it comes to Pim Verbeek, Foster has never been able to be reasonable. I recall an astoundingly petulant Foster sitting in an SBS studio in 2007 aside guest Philippe Troussier. The Frenchman had just been pipped to the Socceroos’ management position by Verbeek, and Foster insisted Troussier should have been appointed. It’s fair to say Foster was never happy with Verbeek’s appointment.
This constant sniping has continued all the way through World Cup and Asian Cup qualification and even on the eve of the World Cup tournament Foster was suggesting Guus Hiddink should return as coach to replace Verbeek. Nice way to reward Pim’s efforts.
So, it’s no surprise to hear Foster slam Verbeek again but his latest outburst is embarrassing. Foster – get this – says he would have immediately sacked Verbeek after the first up loss to Germany. (This would make Australia the only country to have ever sacked a manager during the World Cup while there was still a chance of further progress. Saudi Arabia fired Carlos Alberto Parreira after they lost their first two games of the 1998 World Cup and were already eliminated.)
Sacking Pim now would be a shocking overreaction but astonishingly Foster also says a committee of ex-Soccerros captains and “football people” should have the power to overrule an Australian manager’s team selection. No decent coach would ever consider taking on the Socceroos job under such conditions. It’s laughable.
Perhaps it’s time to get some perspective amid the hysteria over Australia’s “worst defeat in their World Cup history” (a history that stretches to just three appearances at the big event…). People are confusing the Socceroos they see in TV ads – the slickly marketed players that are turned into world beaters by eating a certain brand of breakfast cereal and are so tough and skilful they can take on wild animals on rain sodden, muddy African fields – with reality. Reality being an ageing team that’s done well to qualify but is now finding it tougher than anticipated to match it with the big guns of world football.
The Socceroos’ great escape from their group at the 2006 World Cup was a fantastic achievement but shouldn’t be considered the norm. World Cup qualification should not be taken for granted and, yes, it would fair dinkum fill us full of national pride to see Australia do well as the world watches but you have to remember Germany is a footballing world superpower. They’ve won the World Cup three times and, along with Brazil, have made the most final appearances (seven). This current German team should at least make it to the semi-finals. Don’t be surprised if they give another couple of teams a mauling along the way.
Let’s at least reserve judgement on Pim and the current Socceroos team until after we see how Serbia fare against Germany and Australia perform against Ghana.
I agree with Fozzie on one count though. If the Socceroos put in a gutless performance and are thrashed by Ghana we can start superimposing root vegetables on Pim’s head like the English tabloids do on such occasions, without mercy. Potato or parsnip?